Learning to tell Neoproterozoic time

Precambrian Res. 2000 Mar;100(1-3):3-20. doi: 10.1016/s0301-9268(99)00067-4.


In 1989, the International Commission on Stratigraphy established a Working Group on the Terminal Proterozoic Period. Nine years of intensive, multidisciplinary research by scientists from some two dozen countries have markedly improved the framework for the correlation and calibration of latest Proterozoic events. Three principal phenomena--the Marinoan ice age, Ediacaran animal diversification, and the beginning of the Cambrian Period--specify the limits and character of this interval, but chemostratigraphy and biostratigraphy based on single-celled microfossils (acritarchs), integrated with high-resolution radiometric dates, provide the temporal framework necessary to order and evaluate terminal Proterozoic tectonic, biogeochemical, climatic, and biological events. These data also provide a rational basis for choosing the Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) that will define the beginning of this period. A comparable level of stratigraphic resolution may be achievable for the preceding Cryogenian Period, providing an opportunity to define this interval, as well, in chronostratigraphic terms--perhaps bounded at beginning and end by the onset of Sturtian glaciation and the decay of Marinoan ice sheets, respectively. Limited paleontological, isotopic, and radiometric data additionally suggest a real but more distant prospect of lower Neoproterozoic correlation and stratigraphic subdivision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Earth, Planet
  • Evolution, Planetary
  • Fossils*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Geological Phenomena
  • Geology
  • Paleontology*
  • Strontium Isotopes


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Strontium Isotopes